Return to the Office – Are Flexible Fit Workplaces the Future?

We are interested in reading the various market sources’ opinions on the return to the office after COVID. At Worksmart, we have our own views as well as our own interpretations of what our clients and their design teams are saying on the matter. This is going to be one of the most important discussions in the coming months and years, so we are keen to share our thoughts with you. We also welcome your thoughts on the matter.

I think we can all say how relieved we are that after a year of the pandemic, we will have a choice of how we return to work. Whether it’s full time in the office, or some form of blended or hybrid way of work. We are considering each and every possibility for ourselves and our clients.

In our world of fast-track interior contracting fit out & refurbishment, we are ready to help our clients and their design teams get their staff back into their workplace. As we now enter the relaxation of government restrictions, we are seeing a strong demand from the larger PLCs and SMEs who are beginning to put plans in place to get their teams back into the office in some way.

Flexible Workplaces

A recent report from JLL stated that workplaces of the future will be versatile and hybrid, focusing on employee-centric solutions, as stated in a survey of more than 2000 office workers across ten countries. It is clear that employees are eager to maintain the flexibility of widespread remote working. This method has grown in popularity over the last year with the average work schedule being looked at as 2.5 days working from home. Interestingly, 80% of high performers have missed their office workplace greatly during lockdown.

With the downward pressures of COVID, recession and Brexit, we have seen extreme caution in development and preparation for getting teams back into the workplace. However, with the statistics and data in its current position, we can all see people and business being more positive. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Confidence in the markets and the economic recovery is increasing, and business knows we need to get ready.

At the start of Lockdown, the popular opinion was for more remote working and less working from an office. As the pandemic progressed, wellbeing and the practicalities of the situation came more into focus and the scales rebalanced to show an appetite for a mix of both. This was mirrored across all sizes of business. However, in a recent KPMG report it was confirmed that most major global companies no longer plan to reduce the use of their office space after the coronavirus pandemic.

Just 17% of chief executives plan to cut back on offices, down from 69% in an August 2020 survey. Either downsizing has already taken place or plans have changed as the impact of extended, unplanned, remote working has taken a toll on some employees.

The new new normal?

Indeed, the efficiency and practicality of working from home with insufficient suitable and safe working conditions exist in both the physical boundaries of our homes, and also dealing with our families young and old in the restrictions.

The report also interestingly stated that more than 75% of chief executives also wanted the Government to encourage people to return to the office and workplaces before employers themselves started to request it. We have all seen the ghost town and city centres over the last few months and it is surreal.

People’s needs will be different than before the pandemic. It is up to us to facilitate solutions for the various market sectors in which Worksmart Contracts deliver throughout Scotland and the UK.

After such a prolonged period of restricted, reduced or removed revenue streams from our businesses, will we have the capital to make the investment required to get our teams back into the workplace? Businesses may need to look at funding or leasing measures. At Worksmart Contracts we have several options available that we can help introduce you to.

We need to look at building our future now in a different marketplace to what ourselves and generations before us knew.

Adaptive Workplaces

We need our workplace to be a Future Flexible Fit for our own business needs and to accommodate our teams. COVID has brought disastrous consequences to Scotland, the UK or indeed the World. We need to design with full flexibility in mind to protect our business and our teams.

Various reports tell us there are a minority who wish to work full time from home, a large percentage who want to return full time to the workplace and the majority believing a blended or hybrid way of working is the solution for them and the employer.

We believe this to be the case and with this in mind, businesses can look to work more flexibly and more efficiently in their current – adapted – workplace.

Flore Pradere, Research Director at JLL states: “the COVID-19 crisis has incited a massive paradigm shift in the world of work. To adapt to this new normal, the future of work must be reimagined to focus on the needs and preferences of a liquid workforce. This means offering employee-centric solutions that value choice and flexibility to optimise employee experiences and performance.”

The JLL report also states that traditional priorities have been deeply challenged during the pandemic. 72% of employees believe work life balance is more important than salary, and 69% indicate that living consciously and healthily is as important as finding purpose in their job

Over recent years people have wanted to change the workplace in so many ways. There has been a focus on greater wellbeing.

Some of the measures that have been pioneered are:

  • Breakout spaces
  • Collaborative spaces
  • Quiet zones
  • Coaching zones
  • Better air quality
  • Better lighting
  • Cleaner environments
  • More sustainable/environmentally friendly offices
  • Facilitating cycling and running to work
  • Showers, lockers etc
  • Car charging facilities
  • Workplaces which are close to public transport stations

We will explore these in more detail in future blogs which all tie into this series of focusing on our return to the office.

The Evening Standard confirmed at the end of March that the Chair of Planning Committee from City of London Corporation was seeing confidence in the city office market from developers, investors and occupiers. We can see in various reports and sources that this is not just in London, it’s throughout cities and towns across the UK and here in Scotland.

The Evening Standard also confirmed that in their poll of FTSE 100 businesses showed numerous chief executives are eying a more flexible working future.

However, let’s look at some of the areas which you need to be looking at and which we can support you in this journey. It has to be said that works should start as soon as possible as all businesses will be endeavouring to do the same to fit their specific requirements. There are only so many good quality interior contractors such as Worksmart Contracts who specialise in interior office fit out & refurbishment along with all other interior contracting in the various markets.

Things you’ll need to consider to prepare to return to the office:

  • Understanding what your team and business needs to go to the next level
  • Define and redefine the purpose and requirements of each space
  • Engage and discuss with your teams
  • Design with expert support and guidance
  • Share and communicate ambitions and plans with the teams and make final refinements
  • Engage with expert interior contractors who know and understand the requirements of fit out & refurbishment projects in tight demanding timescales and budgets
  • Complete the approach with reviews of how the spaces work and make final tweaks if required
  • Continue to engage and challenge each other in how best we can continue to develop our workplaces
  • Consider working with an expert interior contractor, consultant & furniture specialist company in a design & build (D&B) basis to accelerate and mitigate risk in cost and timescale with a one-stop turkey solution

The office and workplaces have changed. This is our chance to remove preconditioned restrictions which inhibit the development of ourselves and our businesses. There are better and more efficient ways of working which we need to develop and form as our new way of working when we return to the office.

Staff Expectations for Return to the Office

In Steelcase`s report for “Changing Expectations and the Future of Work”, they engaged with more than 30,000 people in 10 countries to poll what people need and expect from their return to the office.

New Health & Safety Priorities. To be safe and Feel safe.

  • 73% Air Quality
  • 73% Adherence to Safety Protocols
  • 72% Facility Cleanliness
  • 71% Physical Distancing
  • 69% Density
  • 66% Visitor Protocols
  • 59% Food & Drinks safety

Feeling isolated from remote home working is the biggest concern people identified and the top reason for wanting to return to the workplace. People want to connect with colleagues and reconnect to the organisation, helping to rekindle that shared purpose sense of belonging. Feeling a strong sense of community is the top indicator of people’s productivity, engagement, innovation and commitment to an organisation.

A lot of workplaces are dated and too rigid in their current form and we need Risk Assessments and Method Statements in how we now work with COVID in the workplace. This will include looking at areas such as social distancing, screening, one way routes, ventilation, cleaning regimes, rota and booking in systems to control volume of persons working in each zone.

How visitors attend the workplace, deliveries to the workplace, accidents in the workplace, additional hygiene stations and many more aspects will need to be considered.

Please note a helpful guide to a lot of these is through the HSE and can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

Looking at some of the main areas of focus we need to look at the following where we can work with you to getting back to your workplaces:

  • Design Safer Workplaces
  • Design for Productivity
  • Design to Inspire
  • Design for Flexibility
  • Design for Wellbeing
  • Design for Sustainability
  • Design for Future Flexible Fit Workplaces

Urban Realms featured an interesting piece on Post Pandemic Offices and  stress that the office must evolve in order to hold onto its crown as the default environment for productivity. According to them, the office will evolve to meet the needs and wants of a population celebrating a new found sense of freedom.

To close, flexible working is here to stay for many years to come. It will help us to return to the workplace and stand us in a strong position to develop our teams and business. We may see a trend of decentralisation to an extent in larger organisations, with more smaller local suburban hubs being formed as part of the overall solution in our new ways of working.

As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

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Is Clean Air the Key to the Return to Office?

Office Space after refurbishment

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to examine aspects of our lives that we previously wouldn’t have given much notice to. We are much more in tune with our health and the effect of bacteria, viruses and other contagions. Post-pandemic, is office air filtration the key to a more sanitary and productive office?

It seems hard to believe now, but pre-pandemic it was the norm for people to go to work despite suffering from cold or flu.

This type of behaviour is now simply unimaginable, with everyone much more conscious of sanitary measures.

There’s one technology that has been greatly overlooked in office buildings that could play a major role in our post-pandemic recovery. Not only that, but it could also improve people’s moods and boost workplace productivity.

Air Quality in the Office

The cleanliness of the air we breathe in our office buildings, restaurants, schools, and any other place where people gather is going to be a major factor in years to come.

The quality of the indoor air we breathe determines the levels of contaminants being passed from person to person in a room.

This can include COVID-19, but also common colds and other airborne viruses. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems scrub the air. This process filters out the viruses and other contaminants at a molecular level.

What remains is clean, fresh air that can be pumped around buildings, offices, supermarkets, classrooms and more.

What might be even more interesting to business owners and office workers are the other benefits of clean air.

When we inhale oxygen, we exhale carbon dioxide. This CO2 can’t be used by our body the way we use oxygen. So the more CO2 in a room, the less oxygen we are breathing.

Raefer Wallis is a leading global expert on creating ‘healthier’ buildings. Talking to the BBC, he said: “Imagine three people sitting in a mid-sized conference room,” says Mr Wallis. “[Without proper ventilation] it can take 45 minutes for CO2 to reach a level whereby the brain starts to be impaired.

This can decrease productivity, cause headaches, negatively impact our mood and make us more susceptible to health problems.

With HVAC systems, all of the air in a building will be replaced every 20-30 minutes. This constant stream of fresh air will leave those inhaling it feeling better all-round.

HVAC & HEPA Office Air Filtration Systems

Worksmart Contracts is committed to the overall improvement of air quality within offices and workspaces.

Systems like these are going to be crucial for everyone to return to the office and maintain a healthy environment. Not only that, but staff will be more confident to return to the office knowing that they are breathing in clean air all day long.

We can supply air filtration systems to ensure clean air is circulating around your office all day long. This will have many positive benefits on your staff and your business.

These measures will also be crucial when it comes to returning workers to the office after the pandemic.

Whether you need a full office refurbishment or like the sound of the ventilation systems mentioned in this blog, get in touch.

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The Thoughts of a Worksmart Apprentice

Worksmart Contracts is always delighted to shout about the achievements of our apprentices. What better time to do so than Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021.

All this week, companies across Scotland have been celebrating their young apprentices and highlighting their achievements. We’re very lucky to have such a talented and ambitious group of young men and women who come to Worksmart as apprentices and work their way up.

22-year-old Mackenzie Mackie is an apprentice joiner with Worksmart and has been generous enough to spare some time and write about his life as a Worksmart apprentice.

Over to you, Mackenzie:

My names Mackenzie Mackie, I’m 22 years old and i’m currently in my second year of my carpentry and joinery apprenticeship. My apprenticeship lasts for 4 years and time is flying by.

At school I always studied the ‘hands-on’ side of things from CDT, woodwork, graphic communication, product design and computing. These are the subjects I remember enjoying a lot more than others, so I’m glad I’m in this line of work, despite leaving school and not advancing in any other further education surrounding these topics.

I’ve always been highly interested in the creative side of things. I create a lot online for a podcast I do with my friends, as well a lot of physical media. I grew up around joiners, so it’s not something entirely new to me, but when I was younger I never saw myself doing it.

Worksmart’s Operations Manager Gary Robertson helps out a lot with my families dance company and would always ask me if it was something I was interested in. Off the cuff one day, he told me Worksmart were hiring apprentices and asked if it was something I’d be interested in.

Not thinking too much of it, I forwarded my CV over and waited for a reply. I didn’t think much of because I didn’t think I’d actually be lucky enough to be asked to meet for an interview. But thankfully it all went well and here I am one year into my apprenticeship.

I find it difficult to enjoy something when I’m constantly doing the same things everyday, but with Worksmart every day is different. Seeing new faces and learning each day on the sites or at college keeps me interested.

This apprenticeship has taught me a lot of skills and plenty about myself too. I enjoy the work and love my college course so I’m very excited for what the future brings. My main interest is the graphic design side of things, using CAD to design 3D models of products or technical drawings. Because of this I’m thinking in future maybe advancing on to complete my advance craft and trying my hand at a university course to become an architect.

Although it’s all quite far ahead in the future, it’s something I’ve occasionally thought about. I also believe it’s important to have a goal to aim towards in life. Another goal I’ve thought about is owning my own unit in either Falkirk or Stirling and opening an arcade. Games are my biggest passion and I’ve thought a lot about designing my own store/arcade.

Like I said though, all of these are thoughts for the future. Right now I’d be lucky to cut a piece of timber square!

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M&E Contractor Joins Worksmart Group

Worksmart Contracts are delighted to announce the creation of a separate branch of the Worksmart family. EMC Projects will operate under the Worksmart Group and provide mechanical and electrical services on our fit-out and refurbishment projects in Scotland and beyond.

EMC Projects provide building solutions services on electrical, mechanical and communications projects throughout Scotland and the UK. They operate in all market sectors of commercial office, industrial, retail, education, healthcare & hotel & leisure.

 

After some twenty years of successfully working together in the delivery of some fabulous and complex projects, Mick O`Brien and Steve Neilson, along with the Worksmart Contracts Ltd board, created EMC Projects Ltd as a new entity and brand to work as part of the Make It Worksmart Group.

The skilled engineers at EMC have the experience to improve the overall service offered by Worksmart. EMC are experts in all things electrical, communications and mechanical. They can offer a wide range of services such as: structured cabling network solutions to fibre splicing services, electrical testing/inspection, lighting, electrical supplies, cabling, air conditioning, ventilation, CCTV, Fire Alarms, A/V solutions, plumbing and heating.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the number of services EMC Projects specialise in and this addition to the Worksmart family will give us greater flexibility as an organisation. Worksmart will be able to offer better value to clients on future refurbishment and fit-out projects, being able to call upon EMC instead of bringing in other contractors.

This new partnership allows Worksmart to quote, plan and undertake projects in a more efficient manner. With everything in-house, the process will be shortened, and the result will be achieved faster for our clients.

The overall service will be of a higher standard too, as EMC will be working to the strict standards of everyone else in the Worksmart Group. This is an exciting development for Worksmart Contracts and we look forward to working closely with everyone at EMC over the course of this year and beyond.

We knew we needed the flexibility and focus of our own M&E business to work hand in glove with on our commercial refurbishment and fit-out projects.

Already with a successful first year under our belt during the pandemic, we have a solid foundation to build upon for our second year and beyond. In addition to our regular works, we have a significant level of Essential Working status projects on the go within markets such as retail and healthcare. We are very proud to be able to support our clients in such times.

Worksmart is constantly striving to achieve a higher standard of work for our clients. So far in 2021 we are continuing to work with our current and past clients while securing new work in the public and private sectors.

EMC have the experience, knowledge, and certification to ensure projects are successfully carried out. For further information on EMC Projects and examples of the types of projects they work on, you can click here.

To view past case studies click here.

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Luxury Castle Refurbishment Project at Glenapp Castle

After a long-term project in the hotel and leisure sector – in part due to the pandemic – Worksmart are delighted to have completed the handover for our refurbishment of the top floor and other key areas at Glenapp Castle.

Located in Ballantrae Ayrshire, Glenapp Castle dates back to the 1870s and was designed by the celebrated Edinburgh architect David Bryce.

It was built in the Scottish Baronial style and combines elements of both Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

After falling into an unfortunate state of disrepair, the property was acquired by the McMillan family of hoteliers in 1994. Since then, it has been a luxury hotel venue, giving guests the chance to enjoy the highest standards of luxury in an authentic listed Scottish castle and surrounding areas.

The current owners had the ambition and foresight to turn Glenapp Castle into one of Scotland’s most enchanting and leading hotel venues in the UK. Among the awards the Castle has received in recent years is the prestigious Sunday Times “Best Place to Stay 2020”.

The latest part of these renovations and upgrades is where Worksmart Contracts and Worksmart Fire Door Inspection came in.

The new refurbishment involved the complete redevelopment of the third-floor area into a luxury suite named The Endeavour, and the Glenapp Castle Penthouse Apartment. The suite boasts its own independent butler, private elevator, sauna, spa, multiple en-suite bedrooms and kitchen and dining areas.

Passive Fire Protection in Historic Buildings

Passive fire protection standards had to be upgraded to bring the Historic Scotland listed castle up to 21st century standards. This involved a great deal of work for the team at Worksmart Fire Door Inspection. New fire doors, access hatches, sprinkler systems and new structural timbers were installed, along with a vast array of Passive Fire Protection measures.

The result is a suite of the highest luxury. Not only that, but a venue which has been able to retain its historic charm while falling in line with regards to today’s modern safety standards.

For the Worksmart FDI team, this was a huge challenge. Bringing a 19th century building up to our modern standards of fire protection required great levels of skill and patience.

Specialist stone masons were brought in to help and new timber beams and calcium silicate boards had to be installed in various locations. A sprinkler system was also installed. Thanks to the hard work of Worksmart Fire Door Inspection, Glenapp Castle now meets all standards for fire door compliance.

An impressive feat for an historic building and more evidence of the abilities of the fire door experts, inspectors and certified tradesmen who carried out the work.

A pleasure to work with

Working with the client was a true pleasure. Our operatives on the job were blown away by his passion and vision for the hotel. Between Glenapp’s owner and their consultant building surveyor, our projects team found them both to be a pleasure to work with.

Throughout the project many of our operatives actually stayed on-site in order to keep travel to a minimum because of COVID.

For such a challenging project, the way everyone was able to come together and successfully carry out the works has been fantastic.

This is a job that will live long in the memory of everyone who was part of it.

If you’d like to enquire about a refurbishment in a heritage or listed building, contact us today. Whether your project is in the hotel and leisure sector or in a historic building, Worksmart Contracts and Worksmart Fire Door Inspection have what it takes to make the project a success.

Get in touch with our Business Development Manager James Harkins, we’d love to discuss.

[email protected]

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